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How can anyone predict Game 7?

If we've learned anything from this series, it's... er....

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VANCOUVER -- Under ordinary circumstances, the advance column to a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final would deal with some fairly weighty themes.

It would, for starters, discuss the epic nature of the final confrontation and what it would reveal about both teams. It would review the events which brought them to the NHL championship series and wonder at the heroic feats already seen. Finally, it would try to say something profound about the Cup, the game and what it means to so many people in two cities that are as different as night and day.

Now, this Cup final certainly isn't bereft of those storylines and we've already borne witness to a series that will be discussed in Vancouver for as long as hockey is played in the city. But in taking stock of this broadsword fight between the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins, in contemplating its deeper meaning, we aren't left with an elemental battle that has brought out the best in both sides while demonstrating hockey's higher purpose.

No, as the Bruins and Canucks prepare for the game of their lives tonight, what stands out as the defining feature of this Cup final is its utter weirdness and complete unpredictability. It hasn't always made for the best hockey and it's produced too many incidents that haven't served either team well.

But neither have you been able to take your eyes off the action for one nanosecond because, just when you thought this series had used up all its surprises, it serves up another trip to bizarro world.

As of this writing, the 2011 Stanley Cup final is like one of those questions you get on high-level math exams where you're supposed to determine the next number in a sequence, But, in this case, the numbers are 1, 9,045, 8, 457,892, 43, and a googolplex and no one in their right mind would try to predict what Game 7 will hold.

The Canucks' Roberto Luongo could pitch his third shutout of the series and forever cement his reputation as a big-game goalie. Or he could allow three goals on the first eight shots, as he did in Game 6 in Boston, and be remembered forever as one of the greatest choke artists in Stanley Cup history.

The Canucks, meanwhile, could overwhelm the Bruins with their speed, skill and tenacity, as they did in the third periods of games 1, 2 and 5. Or they could be dominated physically, as they were in the Boston games, looking like they were incapable of mounting any resistance to the Bruins' aggression.

I mean, coming off what we saw in Game 6, when Luongo suffered his third straight meltdown in Beantown, when the Bruins played the role of the Vikings to the Canucks' English coast, you would surmise the Bruins have a huge psychological advantage heading into tonight's encounter.

But the same things were thought after Game 4 and everyone knows what happened on Friday night at Rogers Arena.

Still, the more recent events might be harder to dismiss because the Canucks had a chance to bring home the prettiest girl in the dance and they failed so comprehensively, it has to affect them on some level.

Who knows what they're going to get from Luongo? Who knows what the Sedins and Ryan Kesler can deliver? Who knows how beat up they are and who knows if Alex Edler, one of the players they can least afford to lose, will be available?

While we're on the subject, the loss of everyone's favourite whipping boy, Mason Raymond, is significant. We're not going to spend a lot of time on this subject because the noise around this series is already too shrill. But Bruins defenceman Johnny Boychuk had Raymond in a vulnerable position and chose to finish the hit with maximum force.

We called out Vancouver's Aaron Rome for his hit on Boston's Nathan Horton in Game 3. This was more subtle but it was equally dangerous.

It's also left the Canucks short-handed upfront, which -- given Luongo, given the contributions of their big guns, given the play of Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, given so many things -- makes you wonder if they can overcome everything stacked against them.

But in a one-game, winner-take-all situation, just about anything can be overcome. If this series has demonstrated anything, it's demonstrated that, on any given night, anything can and likely will happen.

The Canucks have also looked vulnerable on a handful of occasions in this playoff run, and every time they had the faithful pulling out their hair, they responded with something memorable.

Can they do it again? Who knows?

One thing is certain: There are four million people in British Columbia who'll be watching tonight to see what happens next.

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 15, 2011 C1

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